Making Plastics Fit for a Sustainable Future: Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging 2021 Programme Update

Posted on Posted on 16 Dec 2021

With over £30 million funding already awarded to date, the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge programme is supporting projects to drive major changes around plastic packaging reduction, re-use and recycling. From major infrastructure demonstrator projects to increase the UK’s recycling capacity through to collaborative research between academia and industry on specific barriers to behaviour change, the programme represents the largest ever UK government investment in sustainable plastics research and innovation. Visit the new SSPP page on the UKCPN website and read more about the Challenge and the funded projects in the SSPP 2021 Review.

 Never before has plastic been under such an intense spotlight. Blue Planet II in 2017 brought the message about the plastic pollution crisis in the oceans to a huge global audience. Even before that, however, the environmental impacts of plastic waste were becoming clearer, from the growing evidence on the proliferation of microplastics in our air, water and soil through to hard hitting media coverage about questionable exports of UK plastic waste to less developed countries. While highly effective and safe as a packaging material, around 35% of plastic waste escapes into the environment with a range of negative consequences for health, biodiversity, amenity, resource use and climate change. 

Across the board, UK governments have made commitments and are driving through a raft of policy reforms to improve the way that all packaging waste, including plastic packaging, is managed and recycled, as well as legislating to curb some single use plastic, and imposing a tax to drive up the use of recycled plastics. WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact also unites signatories across the retail and packaging supply chain to deliver on four ambitious reduction, re-use and recycling targets by 2025. 

The £60 million Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge, the largest ever UK Government investment in sustainable plastics research and innovation, underpins and supports these measures and initiatives by: 

  • driving research and innovation to develop more sustainable plastic packaging materials and designs, enable new recycling processes and infrastructure, and support meaningful reductions in plastic packaging by tackling barriers to reuse and refill supply models; 
  • encouraging collaboration and innovation in integrated circular supply chains, addressing key barriers to change and using insights into consumer behaviour to reduce the 
  • environmental impacts of plastic packaging; and 
  • sharing knowledge and the learning from funded projects to inform and underpin the development of a more sustainable plastic packaging supply chain. 

It also builds on the knowledge and learning from UKRI’s previous track record in plastics research and innovation, including funding to assess the viability of bacteria-based recycling of plastics, develop biodegradable biopolymers, and explore new methods of removing micro-plastics in water waste. 

Read the review in full here

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